Nation-state espionage group breaches Alaska Department of Health


Enlarge / If Alaska’s native Ursus arctos inhabitants might be enlisted for cyber protection patrols, attackers would possibly want paws for reflection earlier than committing a felony breach.

Last week, Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) disclosed a safety breach apparently made by a complicated nation-state stage attacker.

According to DHSS—which contracted with well-known safety agency Mandiant to research the breach—the attackers gained a foothold inside DHSS’ community by way of one of its public-facing web sites, from which it pivoted to deeper sources.

A months-long saga

This just isn’t the primary report of the DHSS breach. The group first publicly introduced the intrusion on May 18, with a June replace asserting a multipronged investigation, and yet one more in August on completion of the primary of three investigatory steps.

In the August replace, DHSS disclosed that Mandiant—a subset of bigger infosec agency FireEye—accomplished its preliminary investigation and concluded that the intrusion was a direct, subtle assault moderately than a easy drive-by ransomware infestation. “The type of group behind this disruptive attack is a very serious operation with advanced capabilities,” mentioned DHSS Commissioner Adam Crum.

According to DHSS Technology Officer Scott McCutcheon, the attackers had been each superior and chronic: “This was not a ‘one-and-done’ situation, but rather a sophisticated attack intended to be carried out undetected over a prolonged period. The attackers took steps to maintain that long-term access even after they were detected.”

The majority of the technical element supplied by Alaska DHSS got here within the August replace—final week’s notification as an alternative involved the assault’s impression on Alaskan residents.

Data leaked, and Alaskan response

A safety monitoring agency performing proactive surveillance first observed indicators of an intrusion on May 2. Alaska’s Office of Information Technology (Security Office) notified DHSS of unauthorized pc entry on May 5, after which DHSS stories it instantly shut down techniques to disclaim attackers additional entry to protected information.

During that (at the least) three-day window, attackers probably had entry to private information, some of which constitutes breach of each HIPAA and Alaska Personal Information Protection Act (APIPA). The quantity of people concerned within the assault continues to be unknown, as is precisely what information might have been exfiltrated—however the attackers probably had entry to “any data stored on the department’s information technology infrastructure,” together with however not restricted to the next:

  • Full names
  • Dates of start
  • Social Security numbers
  • Addresses
  • Telephone numbers
  • Driver’s license numbers
  • Internal figuring out numbers (case stories, protected service stories, Medicaid, and so forth.)
  • Health info
  • Financial info
  • Historical info regarding an individual’s interplay with DHSS

In response, the state of Alaska is providing free credit score monitoring to “any concerned Alaskan.” All Alaskan residents who’ve utilized for a Permanent Fund Dividend will obtain an e mail notification describing the breach and providing a code for the free credit-monitoring service. Concerned Alaskans who don’t obtain an emailed code might want to contact a toll-free hotline which can be accessible on the DHSS website starting Tuesday, September 21.

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